The Board received a presentation from the Strategic Director – People, on the Ofsted focused visit which took place in October 2021 and the subsequent actions taken in response to their findings.
Halton received the focused visit to its Children’s Services Department on 13 and 14 October and inspectors looked at the arrangements for children in need, including those who were subject to a child protection plan. This visit was carried out in line with the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) Framework, however the delivery model was adapted to reflect the Covid-19 context. Arrangements were made to deliver the visit effectively whilst working within national and local guidelines for responding to Covid-19.
The Board was advised that the Ofsted findings were published in a letter on 17 November 2021, and gave two Areas for Priority Action (APA’s) as well as findings relating to Legal Access Meetings, Public Law Outline, Private Fostering and Homelessness.
The response to the findings in relation to the APA’s were outlined to the Board, which included the establishment of a Children in Need Panel and an Improvement Board, the latter to oversee the implementation of the Improvement Plan being put in place, a draft of which had already been submitted to Ofsted.
It was noted that the Improvement Board would be presented with areas of progress; areas of concern; and areas of action. Actions in the Plan would be delivered operationally through the Children and Young People Service Improvement Meeting (CYPSIM).
Following the presentation, Members discussed with officers the following issues/areas:
· The shortage of social workers in Halton and in neighbouring authorities;
· What could be done to attract more social workers and retain the ones we have;
· The competitive nature of the profession, in that other local authorities had the same recruitment and retention difficulties;
· Better marketing and improving the Halton work offer for social workers and making Halton more attractive to potential staff;
· High caseloads of work and lack of skilled clerical support;
· Improving terms and conditions as well as pay;
· The increasing demand on the service;
· Staff evaluations, training and support; and
· Additional funding.
The Board conveyed their thanks and appreciation to social workers and other staff employed in these services. It was agreed that the completed Improvement Plan would be presented at the next meeting of the Board.
RESOLVED: That the Board
1) note the steps that have been taken and the role of the Improvement Board; and
2) agrees with the future reporting arrangements to this Board.